Far from just another race, this one. I honestly feel like I’ve been preparing for it for years.
I’d been applying through the London Marathon ballot every year since I started running, because I knew that with a 4.8% ballot success rate there was no chance I’d ever get in, but I do like the glossy rejection magazine they send you in order to tell you you’ve not got in.
Then in autumn 2017, they didn’t send me a rejection magazine. They sent me a ‘You’re In!’ magazine. Oh.
It was lucky that you have the option to defer entry for a year, because Geth and I were moving house over the course of winter 2017/2018 and there was absolutely no way that I would have had the time to train for a marathon on top of that. So London 2019 it was, and in January this year I started training in earnest. I knew I had to be a lot more disciplined with my marathon training than I have sometimes been with my half marathons. You can blag a half marathon if you do 10Ks regularly enough, but you can’t do the same with a full marathon – you need to be properly trained up as it’s a very different beast.
As such, I felt nervous but quietly confident when I lined up in the freezing cold on the start line on Sunday. I knew I’d be slow but I also knew I would finish!
Mile one was just about getting settled, but mile two was probably my favourite of the whole race. There were lots of barely-noticeable speed bumps in the road, but the organisers obviously didn’t want anyone tripping over them, so every single speed bump had two volunteers, one at each end, holding a ‘HUMPS’ sign and yelling ‘HUUUUUMMMMMPPPSS!’ The best duo had a whole call-and-response thing that they’d clearly been practising for weeks.
The end of mile two also saw the first of the many red phone boxes on the race route. Was I ever going to be on these particular London streets again? No, unless I’m ever both mad enough and lucky enough to get into the London Marathon again. Therefore, did I take a photo of every single red phone box along the route? You bet I did. Many, many Phone Box Thursday posts coming soon!
Miles three to ten were fairly straightforward – I had my visualisation plan and it was nice to see my friend Claire volunteering at the mile seven drinks station. The best sightseeing moments, such as the Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge, are all in the first half, and they do really contribute to the atmosphere.
The second half starts off with a slightly demoralising section along miles fourteen and fifteen where you get to watch all the faster runners coming back the other way! Once you split off from that, miles sixteen to twenty are a bit dull scenery-wise, and also the toughest part of the race, I found, although I really appreciated the first RNLI cheering point at mile nineteen.
Once I got past mile twenty, even though it was feeling really tough by then, I did at least feel like the end was in sight, and it was just a case of gritting teeth and counting down every mile. By the time I got to mile twenty-four, we were having to weave in and out of vans and coaches. This was the one big issue I had with the race. Why on earth do they have vehicles going down the route when there are still runners on the course? Either marshal the runners onto the pavement so the vehicles can get past, or wait until all the runners have finished. It was really hairy and I suspect there’s going to be a very nasty accident/somebody will get mown down during some future edition of the race if they keep setting it up like that.
There was another RNLI cheering squad at mile 25, which was enough to spur me on until I got to the final stretch! Geth was watching from the side as I came along Birdcage Walk, which was a nice surprise, and after that I had enough energy to kick round the corner and sprint down the Mall towards the finish line.
When I went to collect my medal and goodie bag, they only had extra small T-shirts left, which was a bit of a surprise. XS is perfect for me as race t-shirts are unisex size, but usually if you’re among the last finishers they only have larger sizes left! I felt a bit sorry for the bigger runners around me who were going to get stuck with an XS t-shirt they probably wouldn’t be able to wear.
However, this may be the best running medal I will ever get.
Geth joined me at the entrance to the meeting area, and we wandered over to the RNLI meeting point – I was too slow for the post-race reception, which had already finished, but there was a nice volunteer at the meeting point who took a picture of us with the Lifeboats flag.
It’s been one of those weird time things where I simultaneously feel like I’ve been training for London forever and also like I’ve only just started…and now it’s all over. I was super slow, but I’m proud I did it. I still need a bit of time to digest this one. Back to my regularly scheduled 10Ks in the meantime!